- I grew up with a size 16; now i wear an 18.
- I am much healthier today physically, mentally and emotionally than when I was younger.
- Being active and buying clothes in the right sizes has helped me the most.
Growing up, it sometimes seemed like everything would fall into place if only I could reach the promised land of size 42. That much bigger, I told myself as I lay down to buckle a pair of size 46 pants, or as my stomach ached from desperately sucking my belly in all day.
Now, as an adult, I’m a step up from that size 12, wearing the 18 I probably should have been wearing all along. But I found the promised land: body acceptance free of shame or pressure to change.
Medical professionals, family members, and random people on the street like to tell fat people to “just lose weight.” That’s the only way my parents managed to help me in the 1990s when I struggled with confidence and body image. I even bought into the message myself and lost 50 pounds in college before gaining it back once I had kids.
But the things that have made me a healthy, happy person have nothing to do with weight loss. This is what I wish I had known sooner.
Find pleasure in movement
As a child of the ’90s, I was constantly playing in the yard, biking around the neighborhood, or orchestrating impromptu kickball games. But when I played T-ball, I was stuck as a catcher. I was put in goal in football. It didn’t take me long to absorb the message that bodies like mine don’t belong in sports.
So I stopped playing. I did individual sports like fencing, but didn’t find fun or enjoyment in exercise until I was an adult.
Then I realized that my body can be athletic. There are sports like powerlifting where my size is an advantage. I love to hike, kayak and race on obstacle courses. I like to experiment with sports that don’t come naturally to me, like ice climbing or yoga.
For years I thought that exercise had only one purpose: to lose weight. But then I realized that movement is really just for that pleasureI fell in love.
Getting clothes that fit, regardless of size
When I was a teenager, shopping was torture. It usually ended in tears. I avoided any mention of the plus size section, instead sucking myself into straight sizes. I never developed a strong sense of style because I just wore whatever would fit.
Growing up, I had an epiphany: The size on the label doesn’t matter. I started by buying shirts that were a bit bigger, then pants that didn’t leave pressure marks on my skin.
When I embraced larger sizes, I immediately felt better physically and emotionally. No one wants to be pinched or pinched all day long. Now I shop almost exclusively online, where more retailers offer large sizes. I like to experiment with new styles and even with clothing rental.
Turns out, clothes that fit well boost my confidence much more than going down a size did.
Prepare tasty, healthy meals
My childhood diets tasted like punishment. Salads without dressing, boiled eggs, cottage cheese – it doesn’t sound too appealing.
Now I know healthy doesn’t mean bland. I make stir fries, curries, soups and yes, even salads that are bursting with flavour. I eat food that tastes great and fuels my body well. I’ve realized that I don’t have to choose between healthy and delicious because I deserve to have both.
Identify with the plus-size community
If there was a movement for body positivity in the early 2000s, it certainly didn’t get to me. But today my Instagram feed is full of big-bodied badasses. Some lift weights on the Olympic team, while others climb mountains or become yoga influencers. They are travel bloggers, lingerie models or experts in their field.
In short, they do what anyone can do, but what people in larger bodies have been told for generations was not for them. With that inspiration and representation you can go a long way, especially on the tough days. Fortunately, they are now few and far between.